Where do you go for inspiration?

Life Balance

Nora and Tim help you find balance when dealing with a stressful debt situation. Learn how to manage stress and enjoy travel without breaking the bank.

Where do you go for inspiration?

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Do you need inspiration? Do you know where to go to find it? I've got some tips to use if you feel like the well of inspiration is running dry for you.

Why We Need Inspiration

Sometimes, day-to-day responsibilities pile up so much that everything feels like a chore: You have to go to work, clean the house, feed the family, take care of the kids, change the oil in the car, find time to exercise, and keep up with your friends. Oh, yes, and then you've got to fill out your tax return (by next week!).Where do you go for inspiration?

If you're digging out from under a pile of debt, that feeling of overwhelm only gets stronger. I've been there: it feels like you'll always owe money and never make real progress, even when you see the numbers going in the right direction from month to month.

In that situation, you can't let yourself get too far down. If you do, you'll lose heart, and you'll be tempted to stop trying -- which is the one approach that guarantees failure. You've got to keep replenishing your well of inspiration so that you'll have the emotional energy to handle the responsibilities in your life day by day.

Sources of Inspiration

At times in my life, I've found inspiration by watching classic films like To Kill a Mockingbird, by hitting a big goal with my exercise program, or by staring at a Rembrandt self-portrait in a museum. But today I want to talk about my four most reliable sources of inspiration -- the ones I can tap into every day.

Nature -- I'm not really a birdwatcher or a gardener, but I love to notice what's going on around me in the natural world, especially as the seasons change. This time of year is great for that: you see birds that have been gone all winter, new flowers bloom each week, and the trees are filling out with new leaves. Those new signs of life can be inspiring.

In the middle of the workday, I can talk a walk outside my office building and enjoy a moment of calm, even if the only "nature" I'm seeing is the landscaping around the parking lot. If I'll just stand still and be quiet for a minute, all of these things -- birds, flowers, trees, the breeze, the sunshine -- can remind me that there's more to life than whatever project is sitting on my desk.

Reading -- Books are a wonderful source of inspiration. This is obviously true for books like Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, but it can also apply to anything that moves you. If you look at life a little differently -- a little better -- because you identify with the young wizards in the Harry Potter books or one of Jane Austen's heroines, that's inspiration at work.

Two genres of writing can be particularly inspirational:

  • Poems -- Forget the musty stuff you had to read in English class. Poems, at their best, are the most distilled way for one person to reach another person with words. If you want to try something different that inspires you to think in new ways, check out Pablo Neruda's love poetry, or maybe some of the absurd but provocative poems of Charles Simic. You can read and re-read one of these poems in just a few minutes (another perfect activity for your lunch hour) and get a window into another world.
  • Scripture -- You don't even have to be religious to appreciate this. Many people besides devout Jews and Christians find inspiration in The Book of Proverbs, for example, and many Westerners have also turned to classics of Eastern religion like The I-Ching or the Heart Sutra. Again, the point is to tap into something bigger than yourself, whether that means something divine, or just the underlying commonalities that have affected all people for millennia. Reading these texts with an open mind can inspire all sorts of new thoughts for you.

Music -- "Music hath charms to soothe the savage ***," but it can also evoke wonderful feelings of possibility. For me, nothing beats the inspiration I find in Beethoven's magnificent Ninth Symphony. A friend of mine swears by Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring." And many a working stiff has gotten through the day -- whether delivering pizzas or crunching numbers in a corporate cubicle -- by cranking up the tunes. With modern music players, it's not hard to carry the equivalent of a wall full of your favorite albums in your pocket.

Helping Others -- This one could make for a column of its own, but I'll note briefly that helping people out -- for example by listening to their problems and giving them your best common-sense advice -- can be a great way of inspiring yourself. Sometimes, when you're giving your best insights to a friend, the real audience is you.

Please tell me, where do YOU find inspiration?

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Tim WalkerTim Walker

Tim is a writer, marketer, and social media pro living in Austin. He joined CareOne's blogging team as a contributing writer for the Life Balance blog in 2009. As a blogger who has personally overcome debt challenges, he draws from his own experience to provide tips on living a balanced life and keeping fit. You can read more of his thoughts (on fitness and everything else) at his personal blog, What I've Learned So Far. Compensated CareOne Blogger

Follow Tim on Twitter; @Twalk or follow us by clicking here!

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  • I find my inspiration in music.  I'm a hard rock / heavy metal kind of guy....and as strange as it may sound that kind of music in it's own kind of way is inspirational.  It often invokes a "Me against the world" theme, which is EXACTLY how my climb out of debt feels much of the time.  Whenever I get down on myself, I plug in the earphones, hit volume "+" until it won't get any louder and flood my eardrums with my favorite tunes.  When I'm done, I'm ready to take on anything life has to throw at me.

  • I find my inspiration in helping others as well as reading.  There is very few days that go by that I am not doing one or both of these.  Until now I never realized that it really is an inspiration for me.  Thank you!

  • That's the kind of person you'd want to look up to. Sure, he was successful in his profession. But he also did what he loved and put a high premium on his relationships, not just his work or the money and accolades that came with it.

  • Thing is, you need good habits, too. Demonstrating your own good habits will help the kids form theirs, and there's no better time of year to do it than right now, when everybody's still adjusting to the school schedule.

  • I feel like I have experienced it all. I have made myself sick over debt more than a few times; moving money around to make sure payments are on time or figuring out where to cut costs if unexpected expenses come up one month. When you slip, it feels

  • The other day I found myself in a funk. I was staring down a lingering project at work, I felt sore and out of sorts after some hard physical therapy for an injury, and I hadn't gotten enough sleep. The specific reasons don't really matter, though, because

  • People are inspired by the stories of others accomplishing something they themselves wish to achieve. Let's be honest: there are few people who have the ability to do something that has never been done before. The rest of us need a little push to believe

  • Some people try to work out their emotions by yelling. Others take their own feelings of insecurity, anger, or pain and use them as an excuse to manipulate those around them. But actions like these tear down relationships instead of building them up,

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